For over 40 years, In These Times has published incisive reporting and analysis on one of the defining issues of our time: the crisis of inequality. Our new book, The Age of Inequality: Corporate America’s War on Working People, brings together In These Times’ best writing on the topic from leading thinkers and journalists. In this selection, originally published in 2005, Arundhati Roy explains why the only force capable of pushing back against militarism and “economic colonialism” is working people uniting across political boundaries.
“PEOPLE VS. EMPIRE” (2005)
RADICAL CHANGE CANNOT AND WILL NOT BE NEGOTIATED BY GOVERNMENTS; it can only be enforced by people. By the public. A public that can link hands across national borders. A public that disagrees with the very concept of empire. A public that has set itself against the governments and institutions that support and service Empire.
Empire has a range of calling cards. It uses different weapons to break open different markets. There’s no country on God’s earth that isn’t caught in the crosshairs of the U.S. cruise missile and the International Monetary Fund checkbook. For poor people in many countries, Empire does not always appear in the form of cruise missiles and tanks, as it has in Iraq or Afghanistan or Vietnam. It appears in their lives in very local avatars—losing their jobs, being sent unpayable electricity bills, having their water supply cut, being evicted from their homes and uprooted from their land.
It is a process of relentless impoverishment with which the poor are historically familiar. What Empire does is further entrench and exacerbate already existing inequalities.
Until quite recently, it was sometimes difficult for people to see themselves as victims of Empire. But now, local struggles have begun to see their role with increasing clarity. However grand it might sound, the fact is, they are confronting Empire in their own, very different ways. Differently in Iraq, in South Africa, in India, in Argentina, and differently, for that matter, on the streets of Europe and the United States. This is the beginning of real globalization. The globalization of dissent.
Meanwhile, the rift between rich and poor is being driven deeper, and the battle to control the world’s resources intensifies. Economic colonialism through formal military aggression is staging a comeback.
Iraq today is a tragic illustration of this process. The illegal invasion. The brutal occupation in the name of liberation. The rewriting of laws to allow the shameless appropriation of the country’s wealth and resources by corporations allied to the occupation. And now the charade of a sovereign “Iraqi government.”
The Iraqi resistance is fighting on the frontlines of the battle against Empire. And therefore that battle is our battle. Before we prescribe how a pristine Iraqi resistance must conduct a secular, feminist, democratic, nonviolent battle, we should shore up our end of the resistance by forcing the U.S. government and its allies to withdraw from Iraq.